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ISO 9001:2015: What’s in a name as Managers become Leaders?

With ISO 9001:2015 being launched this month, the implications of the revised standard have been widely discussed in chat rooms and forums. There is little doubt that debate will continue as we see how audits are conducted and companies develop their QMS in response to the 2015 version.

As always auditors will have their own opinions and expect differing degrees of objective evidence, so here is our opinion on how to show Leadership within an organisation.

One of the seven core principles of ISO 9001:2008 has always been “Top Management support and show involvement with the implementation of the Management System”. So what are the changes proposed for the 2015 revision?


In ISO 9001:2015, Section 5 covers the requirements for “Leadership and Commitment for the Quality Management System” (QMS) and is, in many respects, similar to the 2008 version in which it is called “Management Responsibility”.

What then does this change signify?

In our view, the removal of any references to a “Management Representative” to whom certain responsibilities for the QMS could be delegated is significant. Whilst this change does not mean an organisation should remove a person with this title if it will be detrimental to the QMS, it does mean that Top Management cannot delegate complete responsibility. i.e. we can’t just leave it all to the Management Rep.

It is clear that the revision seeks to ensure that management, at the highest level, are fully engaged as an integral part of the management system, with full accountability for its effectiveness.

The wording indicates that with a broader remit, the active involvement of top management is critical to the operation of the QMS, as it will only be at that level where sufficient awareness and appreciation of the broader commercial environment will exist. It will be interesting to assess the experience of businesses being audited under the revised standard and the interpretation applied to the text by auditors. One thing is certain; top management will need to be committed to implementing and promoting their QMS throughout the entire organisation.

So what will be have to do to meet the requirements of Section 5?

As much of Section 5 of ISO 9001:2015 is in line with its 2008 predecessor, for many organisations it is probable that substantial changes will not be necessary.

Look at how you currently operate your QMS, and check that there is the ability to show:

If we had to summarise Section 5 into one sentence?

A successful business needs the processes outlined in the standard, make sure the people within the organisation managing those processes do it competently and in a way that you would expect.